ALPENA, Mich.– The Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary extends gratitude to the Michigan Humanities Council, in affiliation with the National Endowment for the Humanities, for a CARES Act grant of $7,500 to support employee payroll during our summer season. This funding came at a very critical time for the Friends as many of its traditional revenue sources were not available due to COVID-19 required facilities closures.

“The responsiveness of the Michigan Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities in implementing the CARES Act grant program was remarkable and greatly appreciated by nonprofits like the Friends,” said Friends Board President Chuck Wiesen. “Our seasonal staff and educational specialists provided a great venue for the general public to still explore the Great Lakes rich maritime history both outdoors on the LADY MICHIGAN and virtually through online educational programming.”

The Friends is a small, local nonprofit that supports Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s mission to protect the Great Lakes and their underwater treasures, approximately historical 200 shipwrecks. The Friends does so by supporting operations of the sanctuary store, the LADY MICHIGAN glass-bottom boat, visitor experience staff and educational specialists, as well as supporting special events such as the Thunder Bay International Film Festival, Thunder Bay Maritime Festival, and the Great Lakes Regional MATE ROV Competition.

The COVID-19 pandemic required closure of the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center which houses the shipwreck museum and sanctuary store, and cancellation of several annual events. Rental of the Heritage Center meeting facilities also provides a source of revenue to the Friends to support educational programming. This year, the Friends also had to scale back ticket sales per shipwreck cruise by half to ensure social distancing. Collectively, these adjustments impacted our funding significantly.

Support for the humanities during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential. Perhaps more than ever, educators, students, and the general public have needed safe venues, both outdoors and online, to lift their spirits, spark their imaginations, and appreciate Michigan’s rich maritime heritage. The CARES Act that afforded grants to Michigan humanities-based nonprofits were essential sources of revenue at a critical time to ensure sustainability of quality humanities programming, operations, and staffing.

For more information about the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, contact Katie Wolf at, or call 989-884-6210.